The Iranian regime’s growing disdain for human rights were the subject of large protests in Paris this week that coincided with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s arrival there. Thousands took to Place Denfert-Rochereau, carrying out mock executions and shouting, “Down with Rouhani,” voicing opposition to his visit and calling for him to be held accountable for the mass executions that have taken place under his leadership. Iran executes more individuals per capita than any other country in the world.
A sign hanging off a bridge near the protests had “Welcome Rouhani, Executions of Freedom” written across it in blood red paint, a view of the Eiffel Tower in the background. To the right of the sign stood a topless woman, wearing nude underwear, with the flag of Iran painted across her bare chest, hanging from the bridge by a noose. Over 2,000 people have been executed over the course of Rouhani’s two years as president so far.
Rouhani’s trip to France this week was the first such visit by an Iranian leader since 1999. His visit was part of a European tour meant to usher in a new era of cooperation between the Iranian government and EU following the lifting of sanctions as a consequence of implementation of the now-historic nuclear deal.
A report that the United States released on “The Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” reveals that Iranians are worse off under “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani than his more conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
— Samira Ghaderi (@Samira_Ghaderi) January 28, 2016
— euronews (@euronews) January 28, 2016
At one point, protesters took black and white paper images of Rouhani with an “X” over his face and tore them up. Hardliners in Iran continue to chant “Death to America” during Friday prayers and at political rallies. On Thursday, however, calls of “Death to Rouhani” were uttered by the masses.
The protest was in large part organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is comprised of five groups and includes the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). MEK, which identifies itself as a Muslim group but that was founded on some strong egalitarian principles that border on marxism, was removed in September 2012 from the U.S. State Department terror list by then-Secretary of State and current-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
At the time of her decision, Clinton reportedly said, “With today’s actions, the department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992.”
President-elect of the NCRI Maryam Rajavi sent a message to the rally prior to the event, although she was not physically present to speak at the event. According to the International Business Times, Rajavi said:
Rolling out the red carpet for Rouhani by European governments is to welcome the godfather of terrorism and fundamentalism, to legitimize the regime and its most repressive factions. It is also to the detriment of human rights in Iran. Welcoming Rouhani will only embolden this regime in the torture and execution of the Iranian people, further warmongering in the region, especially in Syria, and export of Islamic extremism and terrorism.
Former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi, and Gilbert Mitterrand, president of France Libertés Foundation and son of the late French President Francois Mitterrand, were also present for the protests.
Scottish politician Struan Stevenson also spoke at the event, saying that “Rouhani is not a moderate. He is a murderer. Rouhani is in charge of a government which is venally corrupt.”
The main focus of the meetings in France were centered around boosting economic relations with Iran. The regime is slated to receive billions of dollars from the relaxing of sanctions on their nation. Many of the Iranian protesters at Thursday’s event had hoped the French government would focus on the human rights issues. Rouhani met with French President Hollande as part of a $25 billion purchase of 118 Airbus crafts from France.
Iran will spend an additional $436 million during the next five years over a car deal between the two nations.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.